Kthobonoyo Syriac

Kthobonoyo refers to the spoken (rather than the written) form of classical Syriac as it is used in recent times. Demographically, it is primarily a W.-Syr. feature; its absence in E.-Syr. is probably due to the fact that Sureth, the colloquial, has raised itself to a literary language. The rise of Kthobonoyo is due to a rise in national identity, especially after the Ottoman constitutional reforms of 1908 which provided millet communities the opportunity to form secular organizations. Within the Syr. Orth. community, the ʿirutho movement was formed with much enthusiasm by activists like Naʿʿūm Fāʾiq, and called for the revival of the Syriac language. The first canon of the Patriarchal School of Dayr al-Zaʿfarān (formed in 1912) stipulates ‘the conversational language in the school is Syriac’, which is repeated in the regulations of the Patriarchal Orphanage in 1920. Speakers of Kthobonoyo included educators such as Yuḥanon Dolabani (1885–1969), and later Kthobonoyo was promoted by Fawlos Gabriel (1912–1971), ʿAbd al-Masīḥ Qarabashī (1903–1983), and Abrohom Nuro (1923–2009) who was the first to apply it in a home setting. In the second half of the 20th cent., the use of Kthobonoyo was enforced in the seminaries and some of the village schools in Ṭur ʿAbdin, and became more popular after immigrations to Europe. Kthobonoyo is primarily a learned, non-native language that requires formal training (with a few known native exceptions in multilingual settings). The aptitude level of Kthobonoyo speakers varies tremendously, despite the fact that speakers tend to be clergymen and malphone well versed in Classical Syriac. A sociolinguistic feature of Kthobonoyo is its male centricity, with very few female speakers. Code-switching is frequent, especially in less formal settings. Kthobonoyo is rich in neologisms and coined terms. While the phonology and morphology of Kthobonoyo are quite similar to Classical Syriac, Kthobonoyo syntax is a subset of that of Classical Syriac.


  • G. A.  Kiraz, ‘Kthobonoyo Syriac: Some Observations and Remarks’, Hugoye 10.2 (2007).

| Kthobonoyo Syriac |


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